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by Sarah Masters
My makeup-wearers out there know the magic of a makeup wipe. After a long day or night out, coming home and wiping your makeup off with a single-use wipe is convenient. You throw it away, and next time you get a brand new one. Unfortunately, this is not the best practice for the environment. Disposable wipes are actually the third most prevalent consumer item in landfills. Many wipes aren’t biodegradable and build up in our landfills, creating blockages in sewers and water treatment plants. They even combine with fat particles to form structures called “fatbergs” which expose humans and wildlife to dangerous bacteria and cause damage to the sewer system. Not to mention, microplastics within the packaging or wipes can leach into our water sources. While makeup wipes are a beloved form of beauty products, it turns out using them at a large scale can harm the Earth and our infrastructure systems.
What to look for
Since sustainable makeup removers span different industries and products, there are a variety of different certifications or terms to look for or avoid when selecting products. For instance, cooking oils like coconut oil are very effective makeup removers and are products many already have in their house. Using an oil with your hands eliminates the need for any disposable wipes at all. When buying cooking oils, look for organic products to avoid the environmental effects of pesticides and herbicides. Since coconut farmers historically have extremely low pay, choosing Fairtrade coconut oil is a good way to make sure the farmer who made your oil is getting a decent income. In general, it’s also great if a company purchases carbon offsets, which is what Ethique does to be carbon neutral.
When it comes to reusable makeup pads or cloths, look for compostable cloth like cotton. While the Erase Your Face Makeup Cloth is made out of polyester, it doesn’t require a makeup-removing solution to be used with it like the reusable pads do. Just having to add water means consumers don’t have to repeatedly buy removing solution. This is an example of a tradeoff that consumers often have to make- more sustainable material or better life-cycle benefits? Either way, choose what makes sense to you. In addition to compostable material and just having to add water, another thing to look for is packaging with minimal to no plastic (plastic causes pollution and releases greenhouse gases as it breaks down in the environment). The facial rounds by Marley’s Monsters come in a mesh laundry bag and the Erase Your Face cloth in recyclable kraft paper. Lastly, look for products that are washer-friendly. Ideally one would just throw their dirty rounds in with their regular load of laundry, using no extra resources to clean them.
While it’s best to opt for reusable, DIY, unconventional forms of makeup removal, we’ve all been in a situation where we need to buy a pack of makeup wipes at the store before. You might be on vacation and forgot your remover at home and need to get your mascara off regardless. In cases where you do need to buy wipes, there are wipe companies making eco-friendly efforts. One of the biggest issues with disposable makeup wipes is that they don’t break down and clog up our sewer systems along with other infrastructure. However, compostable wipes like the Simple Cleansing Wipes break down into non-toxic components. These ones break down in just 42 days. This means less clogging in sewer systems and less persistence in landfills. If you do have to go with wipes, go with compostable ones.
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